social media how toIs social media NOT working for your company? Have you tried to show the return on investment (ROI) and it’s still negative?

If you’ve been using social media for a while and you’re still waiting for it to deliver positive revenue, here are some tips you can employ when your social media strategies are struggling to produce.

When you start any kind of social media activity, the ROI will probably be negative. Building revenue from social media activities takes time because you have to develop trust with your audience first.

However, there are many companies that have been using social media for more than 6 months and they’re still not able to show a positive ROI. Why? And where can you look to find potential sources of fallout?

Here are some activities that can kill any good social media strategy.

#1: You Have a Pushy Sales Strategy

Pushy salespeople kill trust.

Once social media brings in a lead, it falls into whatever the normal sales process is for the company. Most companies are not treating these leads any differently than their other leads. Here’s the challenge.

If your company has an approach that traditionally deals with what we call “fast” leads (that convert quickly and respond to multiple phone calls that ask when the person is going to be ready to buy), you may be turning your social media leads off with what’s perceived as “spammy” calls and messages.

We work hard to build relationships and develop trust in social media. Nothing kills that trust faster than screaming for the sale. Just remember that people LOVE to buy, but HATE to be sold.

TIP: Consider putting social media leads into a separate sales process with a different type of scripting.

Rather than asking when people are ready to buy, ask how you can be of service and what you can do to help them meet their needs. Use their answers to determine their time frame for purchase and gear your follow-ups around that.

#2: You’re Using the “Buy Now” Approach

You’ve seen it before—the follow-up email with the big “BUY NOW” button and nothing else in the message. This falls right into the same category as the sales strategy mentioned in #1 and can lead to a quick unsubscribe.

The typical email and communications strategy that you use for “other” leads may not be appropriate for those coming through social media. We expect a personalized response. Show you know who leads are and that you understand their needs. Some prospects are ready to buy now, but others are looking for information and resources and may not be in the “buying” phase.

TIP: It’s okay to have a Buy Now button in an email, but consider offering a personalized message based on what you know about the person and what he or she is trying to accomplish.

Acknowledge how you got his or her name and ask questions; don’t repeat marketing messaging. If prospects don’t click the Buy Now button the first time, try replacing it with something that offers a free resource download or something of value to the lead that isn’t followed up by a sales call. Reintroduce the Buy Now button later.

#3: You’re Not Asking for the Sale

This may sound contrary to the first two, but I’ve also seen the exact opposite where companies are so scared of offending someone that they never ask for the sale at all.

It’s important to give your leads an easy and convenient way to convert into customers. They probably aren’t going to go searching for it on their own and you could lose the sale to a competitor that does.

TIP: Use a combination of lead scoring and lead profiling to determine where someone is in your sales funnel and what he or she is looking for so you can tailor messages that answer prospects’ needs.

Use the lead score and “profile” of who leads are to develop your sales approach and marketing communications strategies for each group. The easiest way to break it up is to create “fast, medium and slow” groups and align the communications strategy with a top “pain point.” Always include a direct call to action in communications, but understand when and where it’s appropriate in your communication vehicles.

Here’s a great example of how Avaya turned a Twitter interaction into a $250k sale by listening to and engaging with potential customers.

#4: You’re Not Properly Using Lead Forms

This can come in a few different scenarios; for example: Companies may confuse when someone fills out a lead form for a free piece of content with sales interest, they may only have lead forms for interest in their products or they aren’t using lead forms to collect information for those who are downloading their biggest pieces of content that generate sales interest.

There are two core examples of improper lead form usage.

  • Companies aggressively follow up with “leads” from landing pages offering free content with pushy sales messages as described in #2. The person who filled out the lead form wanted the free content. Unless he expressed that he is also interested in your products, you could be confusing content interest with sales interest.
  • Companies only have lead forms for interest in their products. They aren’t using lead forms to collect information for those who are downloading their biggest pieces of content that generate sales interest. This would include items such as white papers or ebooks related to your industry that show your company’s position in the landscape. Don’t miss the opportunity to develop relationships with those who may not be interested in buying today, but will be tomorrow.

TIP: Understand the different types of lead forms you’re using and create a communications strategy that utilizes the buying mindset of the different individuals who fill out those forms.

Consider asking a question in each lead form that tells you whether the leads are “fast, medium or slow” and identify their pain point so you can align your communications strategy with where they are in the buying process and what problem you can help them solve.

HubSpot wrote a great post on how to use better questions to determine lead scores.

Applying lead scores to your sales funnel.

#5: You’re Not Providing “Decision-Making” Content

With social media outreach, you have a tremendous opportunity to help people make decisions about the products they choose. “One of the key benefits of social media (that’s rarely discussed) is its ability to resolve doubt and confusion among fence-sitters,” Jay Baer eloquently stated. Your content strategy needs to focus on helping these “fence-sitters” choose you.

True decision-making content aligns the customer’s pain point with the solutions that solve it. It’s what we call “evergreen” content designed to help find the tipping point to move your leads to the next stage in the sales funnel, from “slow” to “medium” and from “medium” to “fast.” It’s content that you pour your heart and best resources into that, as a result, is always relevant to sales conversion.

Here are some examples of great decision-making content:

  • Eloqua uses white papers, webinars, demos and toolkits to drive the sales process. Notice that every piece of content is directly related to problems that Eloqua can help solve.
  • HubSpot has a vast array of resources for various content types around their core business, “Inbound Marketing“. By offering the information in these formats, it allows readers to select the “depth” of information they want on the subject and also help signal where they are in the buying process to HubSpot.
  • CareOne offers tips on how to vet other debt-relief providers against them.

TIP: Create content that helps your prospects evaluate you against your competition and make the right decision for them.

Understand that it’s just as important to know when customers aren’t a good fit as it is to know when they are. Provide content about topics that you know lead to interest in your products and/or services. Wrap all of this content with a lead form and put the leads in the appropriate place in the funnel.

If you aren’t sure how to create decision-making content, here’s a great article to get you started.

The reason your social media strategy isn’t delivering ROI may have nothing to do with your social media strategy itself and everything to do with what happens after you receive the lead. Evaluate what happens to your social media leads and look for opportunities to cater to their needs, which may be different than for a lead that came from a direct-response paid search ad. Know the difference and you may find that your social media leads convert faster, better and deliver a much better ROI.

Check out these two great resources on driving social media ROI. Use your Blog to Drive Social Sales and Driving Targeted Twitter Traffic.

What ROI social media strategies have you found work best for your company? What tips do you have to share? Please leave your comments in the box below.

Photos: Flickr & Nichole Kelly
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  • Very nice points, I see lots of example of “pushy” individuals and it’s pretty obvious to find out when content is there just for the evident purpose to lead to a sale. There’s nothing wrong in this per se, but when it’s too evident (or pushy) it will surely drive people off.
    My current strategy for my company is not really aimed to create a direct point of sale, but rather to build a social presence which is widely known and influent, building credibility in those foreign markets we didn’t really focus on initially.
    I think that the sales, for the very nature of my business, are better driven in other ways, for now at least.

  • Great post, Nichole. There are too many companies clogging up the social media outlets with what most people perceive as spam. If I’m seeing hundreds of Twitter updates telling me to buy a product or service, I’m much less likely to see that person as credible or trustworthy. Our strategy is to first engage and start interesting conversations. We want to understand the needs and wants of our clients and potential clients, as well as engage with other influential people in our field. If you are contributing to online conversations, people will naturally be motivated to learn more about you.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Gabriel – Thank you so much for your comment. It’s interesting because I am at #brandsconf today listening to how brands have humanzing themselves and as a result have generated success. I find that the relationship ultimately will lead to the sale if your product is right for the person. Even if it isn’t right for them, but it is right for one of their friends, they are more likely to recommend you.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    I couldn’t agree more! Please let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for commenting!

  • Social media marketing is certainly different than traditional advertising, and it is a delicate balance between leading to sales and serving a customer’s needs. You’ve got to offer something of value before a customer becomes interested in anything else you’re peddling. That first contact is all important, because that’s the one that builds trust in your prospects.

    I find Alexa rank is a good indicator of how well someone’s doing at this, since the good ones come up quick and the inexperienced linger at the bottom of the pile of sites out there searching for attention.

  • Yes I absolutely value the power of word of mouth as well, especially in a world, like the one we live right now, where “word of mouth” takes an electronic form as well. So much energy to tap into.

  • having that big “Buy Now” button can and will scary people off…we did an study on this years ago..and realize we had to get rid of that button and add something more friend…and you guest it..sales with up..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Nice to know that there is some data behind a softer approach. I’d love to hear what the percentage change was! Thanks for commenting.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    David – Thanks so much for your comment. I find it interesting that you view the Alexa rank as an indicator of trust. Can you tell me more?

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  • Andrea Reindl

    Nicole, it’s nice to find a kindred soul how believes in pull vs push marketing. We like to think of the internet as a giant conversation and really all we are doing is joining the conversation. By simply staying engaged and having something interesting to say community tends to form around us. Thanks for the great info in this post!

  • all this makes sense i think !!
    i can bet all this is very sufficient , avoiding these mistakes can really offer good results since i consider knowing mistakes is the key !!
    Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  • Jsable

    Nichole, a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We (Moontoast) are a social commerce software company and we enable our clients to sell (anywhere, including their Facebook pages). Today our clients are all B-C but I do strongly suspect that there will be B-B clients using Moontoast software in ’11. What we have seen in Facebook is that our most successful clients (in terms of shares, likes AND revenue) are providing merchandising packages that are not available anywhere else. What we are seeing is that our clients’ stores get liked and shared, as long as our clients follow some fundamental best practices. Part of the best practices are to provide a good end user experience which is very different from a static ‘buy now’ page of products that some people are testing today. So I definitely see some correlation with your points 1, 2 and 3 above with B-C social commerce.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Andrea – Thank you so much! I would love to connect more and continue the conversation. Your comments are right on. We are just a participant in the conversation.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Rahul – Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad you found the post useful.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Jsable – Thank you so much for your comments. If you have links with examples the community would definitely appreciate them. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Andrea Reindl

    Nichole, one of the things I love about the connected world right now is that we all have the choice of who we get to interact with. We get to live a world where we can surround ourselves with like minded people and chose who is in our circle. AND, we can do business with people we love too! The need to separate personal and professional life is becoming less of a need.

  • Hi Nichole, great content with very useful points. I learned that the key to successful sales is to start listening to your prospects and customers. I heard Chris Brogan once say in an interview with Michael Stelzner “Grow Bigger Ears”. I think that says it all. What do you think?

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Juan – Thank you so much for commenting. Chris Brogan is a VERY smart man, his posts and talks on how to grow bigger ears are phenomenal. I agree that pretty much says it all!

  • Thanks Nichole for your great thoughts on this! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between social media and sales. Having worked in two different retail outlets–one heavily corporate, the other not so much–I found it was much easier to make bigger and better sales when I had control of the dialogue with the customer and not when I was expected to stick to a corporate marketing script. Good social media can work that way: have an authentic, transparent dialogue with the customer, answering the customer’s questions not in corporatespeak, but in a way that will address the customer’s wants and needs. It helps, too, if the person doing the social media/sale really likes and relates to the product.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    I agree 100%, social media gives you the opportunity to have real conversations with people and throw the old marketing speak out the door. That is why I believe that it can be a huge catalyst to sales in ways that traditional marketing has struggled. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • We have been toying with the idea to use some of the online carts. Some we love for their ease of use, however, the ‘buy now’ buttons are a deterrent. Thanks for your insights.

  • Very informative post, Nichole. thanks for sharing :).
    I guess the main issue is that many people fail to realize that social media have broken the rules of conventional marketing so they bore everyone to tears with their sales pitch!
    They also use social media sites for one-way broadcasting of their amazing products but never listen to what their customers/prospects have to say about them!
    I guess it is best to think to social media as an “e-party” with one purpose: effective engagement.

  • I have paid a lot to learn how to do internet marketing. Two have been squeeze page experts that have one product with a hard sale. I can’t bring myself to do it because I hate buying from those kinds of websites anyway. I tend to avoid them. I don’t like the hard sell.

    I do like to get information. I don’t like being teased with a free information piece just to be told I really have to buy it. I don’t mind buying if it’s something of value…. I don’t want to be tridked into it or pressured into it. I am hoping to find out how to really master social networking. I am building a couple of businesses. Yikes!

  • Thanks for the info!

  • Nichole!!
    The article shows your in-depth knowledge regarding strategic marketing and customer need analysis..
    That “Buy Now” seems little enforcer and authoritative that customers hate..
    really helping article
    thanks for sharing..

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  • It’s always refreshing for me to find an article that nails down issues that I face with clients everyday.
    So thank you Nichole.